We silently maintain our customers’ websites throughout every week, including updating the WordPress software and ensuring websites are kept secure from cyber attacks. We do this work as part of our hosting and maintenance plans, where we take care of all the technical behind-the-scenes operation. And because you can leave your website in our safe hands, that means you can concentrate on running your business!
From now onwards, we’ll be sharing a quarterly report on what updates have been installed on our customers’ websites, so you can understand some of the invisible work that’s been going on in the background.
In the first quarter, January to March 2021, Primary Image installed over 1,300 software updates on our customers’ websites.
The first thing we do each morning at Primary Image is open our central dashboard. Here we can monitor all our customers’ websites and review any new software versions that have been released overnight, as well as any security bulletins that require attention.
For major software updates, we’ll schedule the installation for a low-traffic period, such as during an evening, and may carry out some testing first.
All our customers’ sites use the world’s most popular web editing software, called WordPress. Several new versions were released at the start of 2021, including some major technical changes under the bonnet.
On top of this core software, our customers’ websites may have a dozen or more software modules tailored to their specific website’s needs, such as e-commerce functions, contact forms, etc. Here’s some of the more noteworthy changes recently:
- For our customers with an online shop, most of these websites run on e-commerce software called WooCommerce. Three new versions of this software were released in January and another significant update was installed on our customers’ websites in February.
- Where your website takes debit/credit card payments, the checkout process has been changed to allow “Strong Customer Authentication”, which all UK and European banks now have to abide by. This regulation requires customers to verify the transaction, such as confirming a code sent via a text message from their bank (and no doubt you’ve noticed this yourself when online shopping recently!). Any of our customers using the payments provider Stripe have had their software fully upgraded to support this new system.
- Customers with an events listing / booking module have benefited from 70+ improvements and bug fixes. The events software can now allow visitors to book several events in one go (i.e. through a basket facility), integrate Zoom meetings, and allow payments via different providers other than PayPal. We can setup these features on request.
- Those websites with a live Instagram feed have benefited from speed improvements by reducing image file sizes, without any noticeable difference.
- More than a dozen software updates have been installed to our powerful contact form software.
- And lots and lots of other software modules, specific to individual websites, such as member login screens, e-learning and quiz modules, cookie bars, etc, have been updated too.
A lot of the software updates in the past few weeks have related to upgrading a programming language called “jQuery” and preparing for the next generation of web server software called “PHP 8.0”. This is one of the most fundamental technological changes to happen to our customers’ websites in the past five years, but it’s all behind-the-scenes stuff that won’t concern most of our customers! Ultimately, it’ll help make your website faster and ensure it’s up-to-date with modern programming standards.
Our customers with the highest traffic websites have also been moved to a faster storage engine, called “InnoDB”, which helps run websites more efficiently. And we’ve carried out database optimisation tasks on many of our customers’ websites too, especially for several of our clients who have 1,000+ webpages.
We recorded an unbeatable 100.00% uptime across our customers’ websites in both January and February. This is measured by an independent third-party and, should any issues arise, we get notified straight away.
On March 4th 2021, at 21:00, we did become aware of an issue at the Centro data centre in Hemel Hempstead, where our web servers are managed, and we were notified immediately. The technicians on-site quickly took action to restore service and later sent us a detailed report on what happened. The hosting platform runs a number of security policies and processes, one of which involves regular automated updates to the firewall software. Unfortunately, on this occasion, a very unusual and specific set of events led to the system crashing.
This was the first significant disruption we’ve experienced in the past four years, since moving to this state-of-the-art data centre in 2017. We were reassured by our partners that this issue was a one-off and has been thoroughly investigated to avoid a repeat. However, it means our uptime for March 2021 was 99.92%, which many web hosts would treat as the norm, but this is far below our usual high standards of service. We apologise to any of our customers affected by this rare incident.
What else is new…
For brand-new websites we’re building for our customers from March 2021, we’ve just started using a new-generation page building system. Unlike our previous page building software, this new software allows you to see exactly how your webpages look whilst you’re editing them, so not more switching between the dashboard and your live webpage. It means you can simply click on a box and edit it, so there’s no more guesswork!
This reliable software has a very strong track record and is used on over a million websites. We’ve invested in this software as part of our plans for this year, which along with our new templating system introduced at the end of last year, means editing your website will never have been so easy!
Also, coming up, next month we’ll be celebrating our eleventh birthday… 🎂
Mike founded Primary Image in 2010. He specialises in the WordPress website platform and speaks regularly at national web design conferences. Mike became a member (MCIPR) of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in 2015.